Free Class: Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively

The first class in my free series, Master Your Creative Productivity, was great fun last night. With almost 100 writers signed up for the program, it was terrific to get on the line and share these tips about how to write more productively.

In case you missed the live call, you can still sign up for the four-part series (we’re continuing tomorrow, Thursday, March 17 at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Time). You’ll get instant access to the recording archives when you register and you’ll also get the call-in information for the next class. 

Here’s what we talked about in the first class, “Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively:”

  • Defining what being productive means.
  • Three writing productivity principles.
  • Five time principles to help you be more effective with EVERYTHING you do.
  • Seven writing productivity power tools you can put to use right away.

Tomorrow, for Part 2, we’ll be covering the Anti-Creativity Cycle and how to break out of it, as well as covering other obstacles to productivity that trip us up.

Join us!

 

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Free Teleclass Series: Master Your Creative Productivity

Registration is now open for my free four-part Master Your Creative Productivity teleclass series that starts on Tuesday, March 15.

In the class series we’ll cover:

  • Powerful Tools to Help You Write Productively
  • The Anti-Creativity Cycle and How to Break It
  • Energy Strategies and “Softer” Skills to Keep You Operating at Peak Performance
  • Recovery Skills For Whenever (If Ever) You Get Off Track
  • How to Set Motivating Writing Goals & Intentions
  • … and much more 

Find out more and register here: http://programs.calledtowrite.com/creative-productivity

I’m looking forward to “seeing” you in the class series.

Jenna

 

Find Your Three Big Rocks

I mentioned in a recent post that I’ve written “in the past” about choosing your “three big rocks” for the year. Turns out “the past” was 2007 (!), so I thought it was worth sharing again. 

I believe this idea has tremendous validity in our overly busy world.

Turns out, when we focus our efforts on the important things we want to accomplish and create with our lives, we are more productive and we are happier.

The Three Big Rocks concept has been spread by Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

I’ve heard it told a number of different ways. Here’s an abridged version:

A time management expert places a large wide-mouthed jar on the table, and then puts several large rocks carefully into the jar. When the jar is packed to the top, he asks, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone watching says, “Yes.”

He says, “Really?” He adds pebbles into the jar and the group watches as they work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he asks again, “Is this jar full?”

By this time, the group is skeptical. “Maybe not,” they say.

“Good!” he answers. He adds sand to the jar and it fills in the spaces left between the rocks and the pebbles.

Once more, he asks, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” they shout.

Once again, he says, “Good!”

Then he takes a pitcher of water and pours it in until the jar is full to the brim.

He then looks at the group and asks, “What do you think is the point of this Illustration?”

One eager beaver raises her hand and says, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit more things in.”

“No,” the speaker replies, “that’s not my point. The Truth is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all.”

We have to pick out what our “Big Rocks”, organize our priorities around those, and only then look at what else we want to add into the remaining interstitial spaces of our lives.

No more of this “I have to take care of [8 million small things] before I can put my attention on my writing.” Trust me, it doesn’t work. Where you put your attention is what you get more of. 

I’ve learned to put my focus on only three big rocks for any given day, and for the year as a whole as well. 

Writing, of course, is always one of my big rocks. I manage to get MOST of the little things done as well. And the rest of them? Well, they aren’t usually that important.

For this year, my three big rocks are my kids, my writing, and my business.

For today, my three big rocks are working on this blog post, working on my script, and writing two testimonials for my beloved coaches.

What are yours?

Powerful questions to ask yourself:

  • What are the three most important things I want to accomplish today?
  • What are the three big things I want to create or accomplish this year?
  • What truly matters to me in terms of how I spend my time?
  • How well are my choices matching up with what matters most to me?

You might also like this article I wrote for ScriptMag on the subject of being too busy to write.

 

Happy writing!

 

 

7 Steps to Recovering From Creative Burnout

Over the last few weeks I’ve been writing about creative depletion and the cycle of creative burnout, and creating a cycle of creative renewal.

Today it’s time to talk about recovering from creative burnout.

As I said to one of my Circle members the other day, it’s a matter of rebuilding trust with yourself and coaxing yourself back to the table.

So how do we do that?

7 recovery steps

1. First, acknowledge the exhaustion and aversion to the work that’s developed.

It’s real. It’s normal, and it’s totally understandable. 

Burnout happens from pushing ourselves too hard for too long and expecting that creative well to remain topped off. Doesn’t happen.

2. Next, make a plan for recovery that includes down time.

…even if it’s in the smallest of moments every day. Give yourself permission to close your eyes in a comfortable chair for a few moments allows your mind to let go, and relax. You’re exhausted, you need to rest.

Ideally, you’ll also want to schedule some full days off — and vacations, if possible — where you do nothing that’s not just for you. Over the last month, I’ve taken two full days, mid-week, just to put my feet up and watch movies, eat great food, get some body work done, and saunter through the day at my own pace.

In other words, go for full out indulgence from time-to-time. You’ll work harder, better, and faster, when you’re rested. Not before.

3. When you feel ready, remind yourself why you love your craft.

Just today I was watching some clips from my favorite show ever, Firefly, and felt an upwelling of inspiration and passion come surging back through me.

You do love this work, you’ve just temporarily forgotten why.

Figure out what your jump-starts are, and go back to them when you need one.

4. Don’t expect new ideas to come flowing back to you immediately.

Give yourself time and space to recovery, trusting that your creativity will return. Remember: you’re not blocked, you’re exhausted.

When my writers don’t know what to write and don’t have ideas flowing, I encourage them to start with a practice of morning pages (Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way* is the seminal book on the subject).

5. Find ways to regain your inspiration.

Go on “Artist’s Dates” (again, see The Artist’s Way*), take yourself out for walks, movies, book signings, and speaking events. Consider attending events that have nothing to do with your craft. It’s amazing how other topics, knowledge, and ideas can reignite your own originality.

6. When you feel ready, make a baby steps plan to get back on track with your work.

In my Writer’s Circle, we recommend working in the smallest possible increment of time that you know without question, that you will actually do. It’s okay if it seems ridiculously easy (that’s the point, in fact). You’ll slowly build back up to more over time.

7. Give thought to how to prevent burnout next time.

In other words, plan ahead. Learn how to pace yourself properly and deal with the natural resistance and procrastination that comes up around creative work so that you don’t put yourself right back where you’ve started.

If you do get into a situation where you’ll be pushing to meet a deadline, think about how you can counter-balance the effort on the other side.

The bottom line

Creative recovery requires patience, permission, and a great deal of self-care. You, and your work, deserve it. Please give it to yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Click here to tell me what you think. I always love to receive your feedback.

And Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating here in the U.S. and abroad. I’m grateful for each and every one of you. Thank you for being part of my life.

Warmly,

 Jenna

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Are you protecting yourself from your dreams?

In a writer’s coaching session with one of my clients the other day, we discovered that she was holding herself back from what she truly wanted with her creative work because she was afraid of being disappointed if it didn’t come true.

Does that sound familiar to you?

So many of us, myself included (!), tend to vacillate between wild dreams of incredible success and being afraid to admit to what we truly want for fear that we won’t get it.

We even hold ourselves back from knowing what we want, as if staying confused will keep us safe.

Lessons from little tots

The other day on the way to preschool, my son tripped, fell flat on his hands, and dropped his toys. After he stopped crying and we had a good hug, he said to me, “I was running too fast and I threw my toys.”

I thought about that for a minute and responded, “I don’t think you were running too fast, but sometimes we do trip and fall down.”

I wanted him to know that sometimes, things just go wrong, and we don’t necessarily want to: 1) blame ourselves, or 2) hold back overly from enjoying life because “something might happen”.

Making decisions to protect ourselves

We have all had experiences in our lives where we reach for what we want and don’t get it.

In our disappointment, we make decisions to protect ourselves from even wanting it in the first place, so we won’t get hurt again. We decide that it’s safer to aim low than to proclaim our dreams and be embarrassed when we don’t get them.

I’ve run into this with my creative work and my coaching work — setting my sights high, only to have it all come crashing down, and then deciding it’s not worth pursuing anymore.

In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given up on my creativity over the years to protect myself, like the time I dropped out after ONE DAY in art school because another student ridiculed my work, or how I decided not to be a writer when I was a kid because my parents told me I couldn’t make enough money that way.

What’s the right lesson here?

So while it’s true that we might be disappointed and sometimes we do aim higher than we achieve, is the right lesson to learn NOT to aim high? Is it truly better to be “realistic“?

I think we have to ask ourselves which risk is bigger. Is it the risk of playing small and holding back, never quite going for what you want most? Or is it the risk of going for it, maybe falling hard, but possibly grasping that star you’re reaching for?”

Let’s all agree to admit what it is we truly want, and to say to ourselves, “I’m going to give this dream the respect it deserves, and play full out to get it. After all, it’s something I truly, deeply want.

What’s your dream?

What’s your big dream? Tell us about it in the comments.

Here’s my dream: To have my writing be paid, published and/or produced.

For the sake of further exploration, next week I’ll write about doing things for the joy of them, even if they don’t “happen” the way we want them too. :)

Warmly,

 Jenna

 

Wisdom From Arthur C. Clarke: Breaking the Mold with Purpose and Creativity

One of my all-time favorite science fiction books is The City and The Stars, by Arthur C. Clarke. I believe it was the first sci-fi book I ever read.

This magical story details the life of Alvin, a “Unique,” who has never been born before.

In the fully enclosed, domed city of Diaspar, everyone else has lived many lives — they are reborn cyclically from the city’s Central Computer banks — and their memories of their past lives return to them on their 20th birthdays. Alvin has no prior memories.

Alvin’s uniqueness was deliberately designed. Because the city creators knew that the measures put into place to protect the last of the human race might someday no longer be needed (including behavioral inhibitions to keep everyone safe at home), they knew that a catalyst would be required to test the waters and breakthrough old paradigms when the time was right.

Over the billion years the city existed and of the millions of city inhabitants at any given time, only 14 other Uniques emerged to play this key role in the fate and future of the city.

Unfortunately for Alvin, as someone with such a unique purpose and role to play, he didn’t fit in well with his co-habitants. None of the other people in his life were interested in seeing what was beyond the walls, or questioning why things were they way they were.

One day, Alvin met another unique character: Khedron, the Jester. Although Khedron had lived before, he too was designed to play a key role — the role of the artist and the saboteur — with the purpose of shaking things up, stimulating discourse and debate, and catalyzing other catalysts (the Uniques) into action.

The city planners had chosen his role with care: They realized that a billion-year-old city would get downright boring and complacent without periodical upheaval, crime, disorder, and change.

Although the Jester had lived before, and had his own implanted inhibitions, he operated outside the societal norms and could help Alvin to claim his purpose and to act on it. Khedron became Alvin’s muse, in a sense.

Ultimately, Alvin ventured beyond the city walls to discover the self-imposed secret truths that kept the human race cowering on planet Earth and fulfilled his purpose.

I share this story with you for a number of reasons:

  • I love the demonstration of purpose — of how a single individual can have a lasting impact — and how compelling that purpose can be. Alvin could not rest until he had fulfilled his purpose. Khedron fulfilled his purpose as well. Each had a role to play.
  • I also love how The Jester — the archetypal fool — demonstrated the powerful role an artist plays in a society. Often creativity and art are thought of as gratuitous or entertaining, but this story caused me to see creativity as a powerful force for change, learning, growth, healing, and understanding. When I hear people debating or disliking an art piece (particularly a public art piece), I smile to myself, and think, “Good! That artist is fulfilling her purpose — she’s got people talking.”
  • I love the idea that not fitting the mold is not only “designed” but is the key ingredient for success. The discomfort both characters experienced as “different” parallels the lives of many sensitives and creatives as we navigate this world not well-designed for us. Precisely because of the fear of being different, or rocking the boat, many of us hold back. But as sensitive sages and visionary creatives, when we hold back, we fail to fulfill our purpose. We must recognize that not fitting in is part of our impetus to fulfill our purpose.
  • I love the reminder that we require muses and supporters as we breakthrough the limitations imposed on us (self-imposed and otherwise). As my teacher Sonia says, “We cannot do this alone.”

 

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What do you think?
I’d love to hear from you:

  • What does this spark for you?
  • Where are you ready to venture into new territory?
  • What status quo paradigm are you longing to challenge?
  • Who is your Khedron or muse?

Please share your comments and thoughts on the blog below.